It is estimated that there are about 2.5 million gifted children in Indonesia—those with IQs at 130 or above (100 is average). “Gifted children are actually children with special needs. God is fair, despite the strengths they have been given, they also have special needs,” says HMBC Rikrik Rizkiyana, 45, a corporate lawyer and partner at Assegaf Hamzah & Partners.
Gifted children, explains Rikrik, share some of the same problems as those at the other end of the spectrum, children with disabilities and special needs. In both cases, these children are the outliers, and the traditional educational system is poorly equipped to nurture them to their full potential.
Therefore, in 2008, Rikrik, along with another colleague Vovo Iswanto from Assegaf Hamzah, established the yayasan Kinarya Didaktika to operate a special school for gifted children, the Cugenang Gifted School in Cugenang in Cianjur regency, West Java. The school provides free boarding and education to gifted children from underprivileged families.
Cugenang is the first school in Indonesia specifically catering to gifted children. “The state has recognized the existence of gifted children, yet there is no program or facilities from the state for them yet, that’s why we decided to go ahead with this school,” says Rikrik.
Rikrik runs the school entirely on funds raised from private parties; there is no government support. The expenses per student per month is Rp 4 million, while the operational cost for the school is Rp 70 million per month. Currently, there are 23 students at the school and another three expected to join in the next academic year. The school has nine permanent teachers, and 12 contract teachers who teach specific subjects.
“The school is not only to teach the students, it is meant to form the gifted character to be better, and also minimize the limitations to prevent negative outcomes,” says Rikrik. “Gifted children are smart, so sometimes they can also be arrogant.” As such, Rikrik notes that Islamic fundamentalists can seek the smartest youth for recruitment, because they feel isolated, frustrated and have no outlet for their intellect. Therefore, recruiters can try to use these feelings to woo them into radical fundamentalism. Thus, the Cugenang School tries to instill humility and patriotism into its students.
To protect its standards, the school checks both the children and their families. “We are quite selective, they must be not only gifted, but also come from the less fortunate families,” says Rikrik. Rather than stay at home, Rikrik believes a boarding school environment is best for the students. The children feel less isolated, as they can mingle with their intellectual peers. However, Rikrik allows time off every month to let the children see their families, and parents can visit anytime. “We keep reminding the students that their parents have their best interests at heart by sending them here,” says Rikrik.